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All You Need To Know: Sun-Damaged Skin

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All You Need To Know: Sun-Damaged Skin
  • Published

    March 24, 2014

  • Written by

    Dr Garth Dicker

Sun-Damaged Skin

Skin sun damage is a major issue around the world, but it is a particular concern in Australia which has the highest rate of skin cancers per capita in the world. Sun protection should be taken seriously regardless of your skin tone and the frequency of exposure to the sun. Let’s take a look at the various effects that sun damage can cause to the skin.

Ageing of the skin

Long term sun damage can have a stark effect on the texture of your skin, speeding up the development of wrinkles, discolouration, and other unsightly lines – leading to older looking skin in general.

Wrinkles and facial lines

Prolonged sun exposure can cause the innermost layers of the skin to weaken their ability to retain moisture, which leads to the formation of wrinkles, particularly around the eyes and mouth.


Long term sun exposure can cause discolouration of the skin, resulting in freckles, lesions, and white spots – half a centimetre in length – that appear most commonly on forearms.

Changes to skin texture

Sun damaged skin can result in textural alterations to your skin, thinning the outer layer of the skin and causing it to roughen and tear. Conversely, sun damaged skin can result in thicker, inner layers of the skin losing their elasticity, resulting in the formation of yellow-coloured bumps on the exposed skin.

Sun spots

Sun spots are skin lesions caused as a direct result of exposure to UV rays. These spots are fairly common in people, particularly around the cheeks, neck and hands; along with other highly exposed areas. Sun spots can appear in different colours, ranging from a slight discolouration to a more visible red colour.

Some people with sun spots experience pain and itchiness, which is exacerbated when they undergo further exposure to the sun.

They are most commonly found on people with lighter, or fairer, skin, particularly among those who spend prolonged periods of time exposed to the sun without the necessary protection.
Other than the appearance they give off, sun spots tend to be harmless. However, despite their relative harmlessness, they can develop into skin cancers, especially for people with many sun spots. This often leads people to take preventative treat of sun spots for both health and cosmetic reasons.

People with sunspots should get them examined by a doctor on a regular basis. At Collins Cosmetic Clinic, our expert clinicians can examine and treat your sun spots to reduce your health risks, and improve the appearance of your skin.

Sun Damage Prevention Tips

As we’ve seen above, exposure to the sun can cause significant sun damage to your skin, ranging from benign effects to far more serious ones. Australians are particularly vulnerable to the effects of sun damage, and should be highly discerning when it comes to sun exposure protection. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the effect of sun damage on your skin; we’ve outlined some of these below:

  • Make sure to cover up as much as possible: Covering up is one of the most effective things anyone can do to reduce exposure to the sun. Typically, the intensity of the sun is most damaging from 10am to 5pm. While people who work indoors are safe from exposure during this period, others who find themselves outdoors should cover up as much as possible, whether it’s sunny or cloudy. This includes wearing sunscreen, glasses and hats, and also clothing which is made of drier fabrics;
  • Slop on sunscreen: When you’re out in the sun for any extended period of time, it is important to wear sunscreen with at least an SPF factor of 15. It is essential to note that you should apply a decent coating of sunscreen, as too little can reduce its effectiveness by half;
  • Apply sunscreen strategically: Sunscreen should be applied roughly 30 minutes before you plan on going out into the sun. Moreover, you should re-apply sunscreen once every four hours (most bottles will have a recommended re-application times). People with particularly light skin may even want to apply sunscreen the night before – allowing the cream to seep into the skin – and re-apply again in the morning. For most people this shouldn’t be necessary, but it is recommended for fairer skin tones;
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on all exposed areas: The ears, the upper chest, the nose, hands and feet are often neglected when sunscreen is applied. Naturally, these areas are just as important as the rest of your body, so be sure to apply at least SPF 15 on these areas to prevent sun damaged skin;
  • Keep vigilant about reflective surfaces: UV rays can reflect of many surfaces, bypassing protection like hats for example. These include surfaces like concrete, sand, and even snow, among others. Moreover, don’t assume that being under water can protect you from UV rays, as they easily penetrate the surface;
  • Don’t sunbathe: Sunbathing is a dangerous practice, irrespective of the tone of your skin, and should not be done under any circumstance. If you do sunbathe occasionally, allow your skin to build up natural melanin steadily, which will provide some protection from UV rays;
  • Don’t use tanning beds: Tanning beds are a serious hazard to your skin and, like sunbathing, should be avoided at all cost. Clinics which offer tanning beds argue that their machines produce UVA radiation, rather than UVB rays which are the ones that burn your skin. However, UVA rays are hazardous to your skin, and can increase the risk of skin cancers;
  • UV rays are there rain, hail or shine: Some people assume that UV rays are only damaging when it is a cloudless sky. Contrary to this belief, UV rays can penetrate cloud coverage effortlessly. Be sure to wear sunglasses, hats, clothing and sunscreen when you are out during the day, rain, hail or shine;
  • Consult your doctor over medication: Some medication can adversely affect your skin, making it more susceptible to sun damage. Speak with your doctor to see if your medication has any effect on the sensitivity of your skin.

Protecting your skin from sun damage is not a pursuit to simply avoid sunburns; it is long term effort to reduce the damage caused by the sun’s rays, ensuring that your skin doesn’t become susceptible to dryness, sunspots, wrinkles and skin cancer.

Feel free to speak to one of our experienced specialists at Collins Cosmetic Clinic for further consultation and advice on sun damage and how you can protect yourself in the Australian sun.

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